Saint Charles is the second major tourist destination in New Orleans behind the French Quarter.
It is how people get to the Garden district, Autobon park, the Zoo, the Universities, the River Bend and Carrollton area, and an alternate route for those heading to The Magazine St. Corridor.
Many people are downtown for conventions, business and social or recreational travel, but many end up taking the St. Charles streetcar. These people are not just visitors, but locals heading to or from home weather thats along St. Charles or the opposite side of town.
The problem is people can not rely on the street car. The St. Charles line in particular is extremely unreliable. I frequently see 5 cars lines up in a row. That is 50 minutes of cars that should have been coming every 10 minutes. Yes, people have been waiting an hour or more, so I know its not just double coverage.
My suggestions below include some harder to justify and/or implement items, and thus may need refining, but something needs to be done, and if we can improve the corridor lets do it! In the end, I hope it being edgy does not devalue any of my other posts.
What follows is an improvement that addresses the issue two fold, and each helps the other. One of the major issues slowing down the street cars is vehicular traffic. That same vehicular traffic also holds up vehicular traffic.
The key is to keep the vehicular traffic from affecting the other methods of transit i.e. public, bike, pedestrian. One method is to reduce the vehicular traffic by encouraging other methods. i.e. public, bike, pedestrian. The other is to make said vehicular traffic flow better.
In an effort to encourage public transit, we must ensure the Streetcars run not only on time but in a timely manor. If they are not constantly stopping for cars they can run every ten minutes, as well as cut the total time it takes to make the entire route. Both of which encourages ridership.
The method we can ensure that the streetcars are not continuously stopping for cars is to limit and control there ability to turn left. Thus we should reduce the number of cross over points, and add a left turn/u-turn light this is not a full light, and while expensive, there numbers are limited due to the reduction in left turn points.
This means we must have dedicated left turn lanes. Not a big issue since traffic on St. Charles is already almost always blocked in the left lane because cars are backed up either waiting on a streetcar, or waiting to complete a turn.
Wow we’ve already fixed two problems. Cars can now know they can actually drive on St. Charles, and the Streetcars can actually run on time. Because they are on time, people may actually be able to rely on them when heading to work, and not have to wait an hour only to ride another hour. Heck we are a small city a two hour trip to work is uncalled for.
Now since we are down to one lane on St. Charles, we can utilize the former other lane for bicycle traffic. NOTE: I said the former lane…. I mean use nearly the entire width of the right lane for bikes. Slightly smaller so cars don’t try to use it. This improves capacity, for the bikes, and gives added protection from dooring and This means that occasionally–at the areas reserved for left turn lanes–we will have to do away with parking. I don’t advocate totally removing street parking as we should keep parking available for the smaller local neighborhood businesses. But since we are encouraging less car traffic it makes sense to remove some.
To further improve the timing along the route for public transport, see my other post on Public Transit & traffic lights-timing.
The biggest caveat for this plan is the shifting lanes. Cars may continue into the turn lane when they want to go strait or use the bike lane past the turn zone. We can easily remind the cars to shift lanes with vertical plastic traffic guides. Another option is to actually have the bikes use the left lane. and shift/shrink the bike portion at the turn zones. – Just must respect the left turning traffic or be sandwiched between the two traffic lanes.
NOTE: We may still want to offload some traffic Automobile and Bike to nearby roads, but being a busy road makes it safer for crime issues rather than having someone riding down a dark & quiet adjacent street. Especially when we are trying to encourage people visit the businesses on St. Charles via bike rather than always taking there car.